World Bank, Ministry To Probe Spending

The Ministry of Finance and the World Bank said Monday they will “investigate and tighten pro­cedures” for spending money on public projects, following a recent US investigation into possible corruption in World Bank projects.

The World Bank-funded study will “fo­cus closely on the World Bank-funded projects first, with a view to ensuring that the money is used only for the purpose in­tended,” according to a joint statement released Monday.

Though the statement did not mention the US investigation, a ministry official said the arrival of a staff member from the US Sen­ate Foreign Relations Com­mit­tee last month to investigate possible corruption in World Bank military demobilization and forest crime projects prompted the latest plan to review the government’s use of World Bank funds.

“The idea came out after the US [representative] visited and investigated recently,” said the Fi­nance Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The official said the World Bank will hire an independent au­diting firm to ensure project mon­ey is accounted for in the future.

“We have taken quite a few steps over the past few years to close loopholes and to increase the development impact of our lending in Cambodia,” Ian Porter, coun­try director for Cambodia, said in the statement. “But it has not been enough, and we have seen continued problems in a num­ber of areas. We want to fix them.”

Last month’s visit by committee staff member James Brane­gan was part of a larger investigation into international development projects funded by lenders the US gives money to.

The World Bank has been reluctant to release details about an $18.4 million government demobilization contract it de­clared misprocurement on last year, despite encouraging transparency in poverty reduction.

The World Bank has yet to give a full accounting for the scandal, claiming that it is waiting for a new government to form before releasing details.

Finance Minister Keat Chhon said in the statement Monday that he hopes the new study “will not end up with just finding the problems, but remedy will also be taken.”


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